Focusing Your Grasstops Outreach To Influence Your Member

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This training provides some ideas to start the process of identifying and recruiting allies in our communities. Some of the best tools for convincing friends their voices make a difference and walks us through how to start inventorying your group and potential allies who can support CCL's efforts at the national level.

TOC and Guide Section
Grassroots vs. Grasstops

This training’s focus is on building essential grasstops connections. To understand what CCL means when we use the term “grasstops,” consider the contrasts in the following pairs, (grasstops leaders are the latter of each pair):

  • Limited connections or many possible connections
  • A small economic footprint or a larger economic footprint
  • An individual focus or a larger community-wide focus (as a major employer, large association, faith, business, or city leader, etc.)
Business owners, faith leaders, instructors, local elected officials and other professionals usually have extra influence in your community and some of these “Grasstops” leaders are trusted messengers to their members of Congress.  This month, plan to meet community leaders you know who have not yet endorsed a CCL-supported policy/bill, further your relationship with them, give them a brief CCL update and when the time is right ask them to endorse carbon pricing or carbon cashback on our new endorsement form.
Researching Your Member

We know your time is precious.

Doing research ahead of time will help your team:

  • Find ways to connect with your member
  • Highlight community leaders and trusted voices that will be most persuasive to your member
  • Create a more methodical approach to balance your priorities

These tools will help you balance knowing what to prioritize in terms of where you already have active leads with your group’s connections and who may be most strategic to reach out to in order to influence your member. When beginning doing research on your member of Congress's priorities and top constituencies look in three key areas:

  • Legislative Profile: Find out about your member’s stance on party issues, what leadership they have in the party? What committees they serve on? What causes or policies they champion?
    • Check your member’s campaign site (not the site) and use a search engine to type in the member's name and the key search word "endorsements."
    • For example, if one searches for "Rep. Stefanik for Congress" and "endorsements the results lead you here: with a full list of local leaders to consider reaching out and meeting with.
  • Personal Profile: Find out about your member’s background, what their religious beliefs are, what schools/college(s) they attended, what their profession was ahead of Congress, what clubs and interests they still participate in, etc.
    • For your member’s previous positions held, who did they work with?
    • What Boards do they sit on? Can you influence other members of that board to help move them? 
    • Do you or your chapter have connections to family or friends that also attended that school/university? Alumni orgs?
    • What connections does your group have to the civic or religious organizations your member belongs to?
  • Relationship Profile: Find out about the background behind your member’s key staff, family/spouse/relatives, donors, peers in Congress and community connections back home in district.
    • Which other elected officials do they look up to or are friendly with in their party and across the aisle?
    • Who gave them endorsements during the campaign? Those are good groups to approach because the Member will want them to re-endorse next election cycle
Helpful Tools
A few resources on CCL Community:

Outside CCL’s Resources: 

  • Your member’s own website ( or
  •,, and Open Secrets
  • Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Campaign pages
  • Visiting and seeing what’s displayed in your member’s offices (In-District & DC)
Research Local Impacts

Many local CCL chapters working on grasstops engagement maintain their own records to track developments with community leaders. As a result, check with your group leader or grasstops engagement manager before pursuing a new endorsement. If your chapter does not yet have a system for organizing endorsements, try out this google sheet organizer.

  • Who are the biggest employers in your district? How will they be impacted by climate change? 
    • Set meetings and see if you can work together and have them come with you to talk about how they are planning for climate change or dealing with it already
    • Note: For help with business outreach specifically, consider joining the Business Outreach Action Team.
  • What are the unique impacts in your district/state? 
    • Who are some unusual voices that may be impacted that could speak? (skiing examples, fishing, farming, coastline, etc.)
  • What industries are most likely to be impacted down the line? 
    • Begin to outreach to connect, learn from them, and highlight the impacts your community faces (Local Impacts Resources).
Mapping Your Member’s Connections
  • Conduct a “relationship inventory” for your chapter. 
    • Who do members in your chapter know and possibly have connections to in Congress?
    • Use the research process we highlighted above from your member’s background to find possible connection points in your community.
  • Develop a quick survey for volunteers in your group
    • Ask them questions like: have you ever met our member of Congress (or met other members?)
    • Do they have connections in the second, third, or fourth degree? (i.e. do their daughters go to the same school, do they know someone else that attends their local church, does an old colleague of their share the same work background?)
    • Your chapter might have connection(s) you don’t even know until you ask!
  • Use a system for organizing what you collect
    • If you use a service like Google Sheets, make sure that you restrict viewing access to only those CCL volunteers that are actively working on the campaign to keep things secure. Whatever works for you, it’s important to have a system to capture what you find.
    • Take notes on your volunteers’ quality of relationships, how trusted they might be by the legislator, what kinds of skills they have, what other connections they have themselves and how much these connections might be willing to do.
    • Note: make sure to log your CCL chapter's grasstops strategy meetings in the Action Tracker under "Chapter Development".
  • Consider forming a Grasstops team or steering committee to help you manage planning and coordinate with your local liaison to understand the relationship with your member of Congress.
Bring Your Grasstops Message To Your Member

Here are a variety of options to consider pending what fits best for your circumstances. 

  • Seek their endorsement 
    • Use our endorsement form to have community leaders formalize their support. Endorsements help us keep track of who are supporters are so we can ask them to take more actions in the future or deliver their support to Congress.
  • If they are willing to go further, ask them to personally put in a phone call to your member
    • While harder to determine if they’ve followed through, this is a great ask for someone who is supportive or generally supportive. They can voice their support for something general like carbon pricing or electrification or more specific like a bill that CCL is supporting.
  • Raising the bar: Asking them to join your team and meet with your member 
    • This is the best way to leverage grasstops leaders. Having community leaders go with your team to meet with your member is the most powerful thing you can do. Aim for a face to face meeting, but getting a staff meeting is still impactful.  Follow similar advice to the messaging on their support above. 
    • Help train them to be ready to share their story. Members aren’t won over by facts alone, the importance of stories in the art of relationship building and persuasion can’t be overstated.

Note: Beware of bringing a leader that may be a powerful influencer in the district, but who will end up being partisan in their exchange. This kind of interaction can backfire and is best if avoided (example of bring only local Democrat commissioners for a meeting with your Republican Congresswoman).

Press play to start the video (36m 23s)
Video Outline
Skip ahead to the following section(s):
  • (0:00) Intro & Agenda
  • (2:40) Why Care About Grasstops?
  • (6:10) Focusing Your Outreach
  • (15:00) Important Resources
  • (20:40) Lessons From The Hill
  • (28:11) Putting It All Together
  • Sabrina Butcher
  • Ben Pendergrass
  • Steffi Rausch
  • Don Addu

View the Google Slides presentation.

Download the video. 

Audio length
Press play to start the audio (36m 23s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline
Skip ahead to the following section(s):
  • (0:00) Intro & Agenda
  • (2:40) Why Care About Grasstops?
  • (6:10) Focusing Your Outreach
  • (15:00) Important Resources
  • (20:40) Lessons From The Hill
  • (28:11) Putting It All Together
  • Sabrina Butcher
  • Ben Pendergrass
  • Steffi Rausch
  • Don Addu
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Go Deeper
Looking for sample outreach emails to your Grasstops Leaders? Check out this recommendation from the forums.
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Grasstops Outreach
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Training Resources
The resources above are specific to this training, see all resources associated with Grasstops Engagement.